Rural recycling hit hard by shifting scrap market

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January 10, 2019 - 10:30 AM

WASHINGTON (TNS) — Big cities have shielded their residents from the impact of China’s decision last year to curtail the solid waste it will accept from other countries. But rural and small-town residents are starting to get squeezed by a change that is wreaking havoc on the global recycling market.

Hannibal, Mo., population 18,000, has stopped accepting recyclable plastics labeled with the numbers 3, 4, 5, 6 or 7, such as yogurt containers and shampoo bottles. Villages near Erie, Pa., no longer take glass. And in Columbia County, N.Y., nestled in the Hudson Valley, residents soon will have to pay $50 a year to dump their materials at one of the county’s recycling centers.

China, for decades the world’s largest importer of waste paper, used plastic and scrap metal, last year stopped accepting certain kinds of recyclables and tightened its standards for impurities in scrap bales. In making the changes, China’s Ministry of Environment Protection cited environmental damage caused by “dirty wastes or even hazardous wastes” mixed in with solid waste that can be recycled into raw materials.

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